Although automobile safety has changed by leaps and bounds over the last few decades, safety standards on school buses haven’t changed much since the 1960s. Unlike cars, seat belts aren’t mandatory and many school buses aren’t even equipped with them.
A number of recent and very serious school bus crashes, one on Washington and one in Indiana, have resulted in the call for higher safety standards for school buses. Neither bus was equipped with seat belts and one child and a bus driver are now dead, with many other children sustaining serious injuries.
Despite these accidents, the National Highway Transportation Safety Association maintains that school bus standards are sufficient and seat belts aren’t necessary, since buses are larger and thus less vulnerable when an accident occurs. The NHTSA also asserts that the higher seat backs protect children as well.
However, as explained in this ABC news article, the American Academy of Pediatrics takes a different view:
But the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly disagrees that seat belts aren’t necessary on scho0l buses. It wants all new buses equipped with lap/shoulder belts to “ensure the safest possible ride”, according to Dr. Phyllis Agran, a pediatrician.
Agran said that according to her research, approximately 17,000 children are treated in emergency rooms annually, having been injured in school buses, with 42 percent of those injuries involving crashes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics isn’t alone in this viewpoint. As discussed in this CNN article, another organization devoted to advocating for the safety of children, the National Coalition for School Bus Safety, believes that new school bus regulations should be passed to protect children from injury:
But seat belt advocates say current safety measures are not enough. The National Coalition for School Bus Safety says the study that the government cites for its data is dated and inadequate. For one thing, seven out of 10 “real world” accidents are not frontal, according to the coalition. And when it comes to side-impact and rollover accidents, the NCSBS says compartmentalization is less effective – and that seat belts are essential to saving lives.
Right now there are no plans to revamp school bus safety regulations on a national level. Instead, it’s up to the states and local municipalities to make the decision to require seat belts and other safety measure that would protect our children from serious accidents caused by school bus crashes. Hopefully this will change at some point–and let’s hope that occurs before another child needlessly dies in an accident, where the injuries could have been prevented had more stringent safety measures been in effect.